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Lawmakers refuse to amend workplace harassment laws to protect students

Published Feb 27, 2017 05:22pm

The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights on Monday rejected a proposed amendment to the 'Women at Workplace' bill which sought punishment for those caught harassing women at educational institutions.

The suggested amendment, first presented in 2014, was discarded by the committee after three years of 'deliberations'.

Asiya Nasir, a member of the National Assembly, had moved 'The Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplaces (Amendment) Bill 2014', arguing that educational institutions should also be included in the existing law against harassment.

“Let me tell you that the majority of harassment incidents take place in educational institutions. It is ironic that students at campuses do not come under the laws against harassment,” said Asiya Nasir.

“This is why I have tried to introduce the amendment so that we cover educational institutions and protect girls against harassment,” she insisted.

Officials from the law and justice ministry, however, advised the committee that laws against harassment of women cannot be extended to educational institutions.

The officials said President Mamnoon Hussain had rejected a complaint filed by a female student of Quaid-e-Azam University on the grounds that the existing laws against harassment were applicable in government offices only.

The student had appealed to President Hussain, who is also the chancellor of the university, in 2014. The president had sought the law ministry’s input on the issue, which had suggested that students are not protected under the Harassment Act and that the university can only penalise errant employees under their own disciplinary rules.

The officials argued that students and other women are protected against harassment under a separate criminal law (Section 509 and Section 454), so there is no need to amend the bill against harassment.

“Lawmakers are here to make and amend laws," Nasir later commented in reaction to the development. "Do we not need laws for domestic workers too? The sky will not fall if we extend the laws to domestic workers and students,” she maintained.